Sarah and the People of Sand River.
Bill Valgardson. Illustrated by Ian Wallace.
Review by Michele F. Kallio.
"Before the woman died, she took a pendant of Mary and the Christ child from around her neck and gave it to Sarah's grandmother. It was of brightly coloured beads stitched on deer hide. "This is all I have," the woman said , "But always wear it. If any of my people see it, they will know you are a friend."Twelve year old Sarah begins her adventure as she prepares to leave her home on the shores of Lake Winnipeg. Sarah loves living by the lake, but must go to Winnipeg to learn to be a proper young woman and speak English. The news she must leave reminds Sarah of her grandparents' stories of their arrival in Canada during the Icelandic immigration of the 1870's. Without the help of the native people along Sand River, Sarah's family would have died. In return, when the native people were stricken by a smallpox epidemic, Sarah's family took them in and did what they could for them.
In Winnipeg, Sarah boards with a cruel widow, Mrs. Simpson, and her spoiled daughter, Eugenie. Her life soon becomes a nightmare as Sarah is exploited and abused. When Eugenie takes the pendant Sarah has worn since her mother's death, Sarah loses all hope. With the help of a raven and a mysterious native man and woman, the story comes to a happy resolution.
The story of Sarah's dislocation and the parallel story of the dislocation experienced by immigrants, make Sarah and the People of Sand River an important resource in illustrating the hardships caused by a move to a new home. It is with the care and help of empathetic spirits, both real and spiritual, that the transition to a new society is eased.
Ian Wallace's soft and subtle illustrations in pencil, watercolour and gouache convey the magic and dignity of this literary fairy tale.
Michele F. Kallio is a former teacher-librarian living in Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick.
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Copyright © 1997 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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